ECCC 2011 Recap

As usual, ECCC 2011 was both hectic and fun. It’s been a few days since the show, as it took a while to travel home and recover.

RETRO Innovations arrived Friday evening in time to unload equipment into the show hall and select a couple choice tables near power and good traffic areas.  However, almost as soon as we finished, it was time to close the hall for the night.  I gathered up a few items and set up in the Fairfield Hotel foyer to finish some soldering and check on email.  When I left at 1AM (early, I know), the room was still full of Commodore folks.

Saturday started strong, with sales brisk until nearly noon.  ZoomFloppies sold well, though uIEC/SD unit sales were nontrivial as well (typically, a large number of the same folks attend each year, so year over years sales of the same item tend to decrease after the first year).  JiffyDOS ROM sets sold at a steady pace, as did IEC cables.  By mid afternoon, sales had tapered off and I was able to present ZoomFLoppy at 4PM in the demo area without too much trouble.  I drug in an 8050 drive to show off IEEE support, recently added to the ZF firmware, while showing the rest of the ZoomFloppy features.

In the evening, I worked with Leif Bloomquist on a long-in-development VIC-MIDI project.  Having first collaborated with Leif on the project in early 2010, it’s been a long road getting to this point.  But, Leif worked on the driver code in the evening and was able to coax correct operation out the circuit before nightfall.  Hopefully, a finished design and a product offering will be available before the first show in 2012.

After the hall closed Saturday night, we once again gathered in the hotel foyer.  I sat with Six and Elwix of Style to discuss some new hardware design ideas, but mainly just enjoyed the din of activity.

This year, the show opened again on Sunday, though I had already made alternate Sunday plans.  Though I was in no hurry, packing went slower than expected since I had to pull items out a number of times to make last minute sales.  I can’t complain about sales, though.  By 1PM, I had stuffed everything back into containers and closed up shop.

Of course, no show would be complete unless purchases were made.  While eyeing some individual 8″ floppy disks, I happened upon a VIC-1540 with an original DOS ROM.  Those ended up in my possession (I already have a 1540, but I don’t have an original ROM). Anticipating purchases, I had left a bit of room for things like this and the 10 VIC expansion cases (Think VIC-1020, but minus the expansion PCB.  They were used to lock down the VIC in an education setting) Leif brought to the show (I purchased them at WoC 2010, but was not in attendance). As well, I asked Six (Oliver Viebrooks) to bring an SX64 shipping box to that show I had stashed at his home years before.  Finally, the shipping box would make it home.

Or not…  At the end of the show, I ended up purchasing a Xerox Phaser 8400 Workgroup color printer (I’ve been looking for a color unit for invoice printing, but couldn’t justify the cost of a new color laser in lieu of the perfectly functioning LaserJet 5 currently in use).  The price was too good to pass up, but the cargo area could not hold the printer, the products, the VIC cases, and the SX64 shipping box in addition to suitcases.  So, the SX box went home to downstate IL with family.  Maybe one day it’ll make it home.  It’s been in IL, then in KY, and now somewhere else in IL.

To be truthful, I attend to see folks and share stories, not sell products.  It was nice to catch up with folks from past events as well as meet people I’ve only known online.  Still, it is nice to sell enough stuff to finance the trip.

Above all, I’m exceedingly grateful that Jason Compton underwrites the entire cost of the event, offering it for free to businesses and attendees alike.  May it continue to be held for years to come.  I’m also excited that the Vintage Computer Festival was held at the same time in the same building.  Though I didn’t get to spend much time at their exhibits, the exhibits were well planned and very intriguing.

Upcoming ECCC ’11 Show

RETRO Innovations will be attending the upcoming ECCC/VCFMW Show September 24/25 in Lombard, IL.  Details are below:

Vintage Computer Festival Midwest 6.0 / Emergency Chicagoland
Commodore Convention 2011 /
September 24-25, 2011, Lombard, IL

WHAT: VCFMW is a free and open exposition of classic computing
hardware, software and memorabilia. ECCC is the world's top September
destination for Commodore enjoyment. Two great shows, one great

WHEN: 8AM Saturday, September 24, 2011 to 4PM Sunday, September 25,
2011 (display area will close 11PM Saturday to 10AM Sunday)

WHERE: Heron Point Building, next to Fairfield Inn and Suites (Marriott)
665 West North Ave
Lombard, Illinois 60148 USA

Mention "Fall Commodore Expo" for special $69/night room rate!

# Join the VCF-MW Facebook group!!/event.php?eid=198133433540110
# Follow us on Twitter
# Join us on IRC at freenode #vcfmw

# Visit for extra ECCC Facebookery.

Copyright © 1997-2011 Vintage Computer Festival
Vintage Computer Festival and VCF are trademarks of VintageTech

ECCC Show 2010

Brain Innovations attended the now legendary ECCC EXPO in Chicago on September 18, 2010.  Given our new location, logistics became the largest area of concern for attendance.

Due to the relocation, I needed to find a new place to live (and, as previously noted, somewhere to build a proper facility for the company.  As with previous career changes, the hiring company offers temporary housing of some type for a certain time period, typically 1 to 4 months.  Complication matters this time was the inability to find suitable temporary housing for 2 adults, 2 children, and a dog.  Pets are evidently not as welcome in Sioux Falls, SD temporary housing.  Thus, our temporary home became the Residence Inn in Sioux Falls (highly recommended, BTW).  This is important to the logistics, I promise.

As I prepared for the ECCC show, I asked if the family wanted to attend.  In years past, the children came, not so much for the show itself, but mainly for a chance to stay in a hotel room for a few days.  This time, though, they had stayed in a hotel for over a month, which diminished the uniqueness.  On the other hand, our previous location, Cedar Rapids, IA, was on the way to Chicago, and staying there would allow them to visit with friends recently left behind.  Thus, a decision was made to drop the family in CR, and travel onto Chicago alone.  Because of the delay in making a decision on lodging needs, the hotel booked up, but a request for room sharing was fulfilled.

"Packed" for the Trip
"Packed" for the Trip

After looking at all the options, we decided to take the RV to IA and park it as temporary housing for the family during the Chicago trip.  I would trailer another vehicle behind and then drive that vehicle to the show.  Obviously, I decided to trailer “Smartie”.  The combination was an interesting combination of machinery:

Smartie loaded with the "essentials"
Smartie loaded with the "essentials"

Given our relocation efforts, the business had been temporarily reduced to a few cubic feet of product, my trusty Commodore SX64 (for testing), and a ‘scope.  Thus, the small cargo area of the ForTwo easily accommodated all of the equipment needed for my table at the show.  Thankfully, the drive to Chicago in the ForTwo from IA was uneventful.  Filling up but twice with gasoline during the trip and paying not more than $35.00 in total for fuel, coupled with the shared hotel room, certainly made for an inexpensive trip.

Given the circumstances, I was behind on project work and did not plan to show anything.  I did bring what stock I had to sell, and I enjoyed the other presentations and impromptu discussions at the show.

Earlier in the year, I started working Nate Lawson to bring his USB-to-IEC drive adapter to market.  Though I was not able to have PCBs done for the ECCC show, I did get to meet Nate at the show, at least to apologize.  A subsequent post will detail more information about the “ZoomFloppy” project, as it is now called.

Leif and I debugging VIC-MIDI
Leif and I debugging VIC-MIDI (Courtesy Glenn Holmer)

I also touched base with Leif Bloomquist, who is trying to bring a VIC-MIDI cartridge to fruition.  I suggested at the WoC 2009 show that the design would be easier to manufacture if the now-obsolete and hard-to-source 6850 could be replaced with a newer 16X50 UART part.  I had wired a 16450 to his prototype cart during the CCCC EXPO in May, but there were still issues.  Nate and I debugged the design while at the show, though more needs to be done.

Tower of X-Panders
Tower of X-Panders (Courtesy Glenn Holmer)

This year, the afterparty did not include a very-drunk set of wedding guests and a fire alarm with water cascading down the hotel stairs.  Honestly, as in years other than 2009, which included the aforementioned festivities, the event was very low key.  Attendance looked to be healthy, no doubt influenced by the Vintage Computer Festival – Midwest event that shared space with ECCC.  I’ll be back in 2011, hopefully with more to show and present.